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Checking In On Our 2023 Trend Report

Just how psychic are Codewordians?

September 19, 2023

Headshot for Molly Caccia

Molly Caccia

Senior Editor


At the end of 2022, our expert strategists, creatives, media pros, and trendspotters made over 80 brilliant predictions for the coming year. Now that we’re over halfway to 2023 (how the hell did that happen?), it’s time to check in and see how we did on a few of them.


a collage of three people using their VR headsets

Trend: User-generated content > paid influencers

Did it come true? Yes

According to a recent EnTribe survey, 90% of consumers no longer trust influencers and 86% are more likely to trust a brand that publishes user-generated content. Can you blame them when influencers are fumbling left and right? Then there’s the exorbitant costs of influencer content and brands’ increasing desire to connect with communities (something we’ve been recommending forever, btw). It’s a no brainer — authenticity, realness, and camaraderie win. This is why we say brands should act like creators.

TrendThe Metaverse will only exist for brand burnishing

Did it come true? Yes and no.

Yes, because for most of 2023, we predominantly only saw brands pushing the Metaverse. No, because the brands are over it now. Even Meta deprioritized it in favor of Threads and Instagram Shop. It’s safe to say that there’s still an interest in virtual worlds or more connected experiences, but the Metaverse as a concept is either dead or deeply hibernating.

Trend: Niche social platforms will drive deeper brand engagement

Did it come true? Yes

Niche is in. For example, Snapdragon launched a Discord channel for its 12 million-member Snapdragon Insiders community, and it’s proven to be crucial for connection and engagement with the brand. Snapdragon’s not the only brand opening Slack, Geneva, and Discord channels and seeing success, either.

Trend: The rise of the “marketing VC”

Did it come true? Yes

Typical VC roles like “Platforms Lead” are seeing some pushback, and these are generally the catch-all people that help portfolio companies and firms alike with things like marketing and hiring. Roles are shifting, and we’ll likely see that position get an Illustration of a man playing acoustic guitar.swallowed up by the growing number of CMOs/Marketing Partners making decisions at the tables of many VCs.

Trend: Gen Z’s ’90s nostalgia obsession will be over in 6 months

Did it come true? No, times 1000

If anything, Gen Z’s ’90s nostalgia obsession has only gotten stronger and more powerful. They’re leaning into their parents’ favorite musicbringing back digital cameras and flip phones, and continuing to wear stuff my mom dressed me in when I was 4. Even Codeword got in on the trend by throwing a 90s-themed prom (Wish you had an invite? Sign up for our newsletter).

Trend: Heroin chic will finally burn in hell

Did it come true? No

This prediction declared “2023 will see a downturn in people giving their time and money to brands that capitalize on self-hatred.” This prediction made sense — until Ozempic became the flashiest drug of 2023. It started with celebrities losing weight in a snap, and as word got out about it, it was marketed to the average consumer. Famously curvaceous stars are slimming down (unconfirmed but very likely with the help of Ozempic), so it’s not looking like we’ll see the end of heroin chic anytime soon.

Trend: We’ll be over wellness language

Did it come true? Yes and no

Okay, so we’re not OVER wellness language. It’s still essential for all of us to have that kind of vocabulary to describe our mental health correctly. What people are over is the overutilization and misuse of terms like gaslighting, boundary, trauma, narcissism, anxiety, depression, triggered, and more. The more they’re said in the wrong contexts, the less power they have when they’re needed.

Illustration of a cute and friendly robot face.

Trend: AI will be our friend, and maybe our coworker

Did it come true? Yes

2023 is proving to be the year of generative AI, and from a workplace perspective, organizations across industries are steadily taking advantage of its benefits — including us. We hired the industry’s first AI interns for our design and editorial teams, and while they weren’t half as good at our jobs as we are, Aidan and Aiko proved to be pretty useful for the administrative tasks we don’t feel like doing. They were friendly too, if not a little cocky.

Trend: VR will finally become accessible

Did it come true? No

The biggest news on VR we’ve seen in 2023 so far is Apple’s $3500 VR headset. The PSVR2 came out in February of this year, but cost more than a PS5 at $550. It’s not looking good for VR accessibility, but we’re expecting more headsets to be announced in the next few weeks.

Trend: AI will make your writing career even harder

Did it come true? Not really

Hard no on this one, unless you’re a WGA writer. At this stage, generative AI has proven time and time again that it’s not good enough to replace creative humans. Good writing is about connecting with readers, which requires a human touch. AI can’t do that. What it can do is take over the busy work that writers hate, like summarizing huge reference documents, consolidating our notes, creating project checklists, and other robot work that gives us more time in our day to do the important stuff.

A collage of the board game "Hungry Hungry Hippos" over a picture of money.

Trend: Hybrid work is here to stay

Did it come true? Yes and no

Some companies like Airbnb, Reddit, and Spotify have a permanent remote work policy with flexible options. Codeword is still remote-first, but we keep our offices open so employees can visit if they want. Others, like Publicis and Amazon, have recently opted for more aggressive policies that threaten to curb raises, promotions, and even your whole-ass job if you fail to comply. This is a bummer because people really, really like hybrid work.

Trend: Tech leadership will take a chill pill

Did it come true? No

I have four words for you: Elon Zuck Cage Match. Sure, the fight’s not happening, but if that’s not an indication of how little tech leadership has chilled out in 2023, I don’t know what is.

Trend: The recession won’t stop us from spending

Did it come true? No

So, we haven’t actually entered a recession in 2023. Not by traditional definitions anyway. The Girl Economy had a bit of a hand in that (slay). We also slowed down our spending a lot, and it’s highly likely we’ll see a dip in consumer spending in the fall. For now, we’ll call this prediction half correct.

Trend: More journalists will pivot to PR

Did it come true? Yes

In the face of 2023’s record number of job cuts in journalism and media, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing talented journalists start their own shops after being laid off. And whether they’re building their own companies, going freelance, or joining other agencies, many of them are taking full advantage of that good old journalism-to-PR pipeline.

Illustration of a paintbrush painting over some 3D texture

Trend: The end of minimalism

Did this come true? Yes

From home decor to typefaces to fashion trends, we’re seeing over-the-top, maximalist influence all over the place.

Trend: Post-pandemic means newfound discovery with colors

Did this come true? Yes

Similarly to the end of minimalism, we’re seeing a lot more experimentation with bright colors. I mean, the Pantone Color of the Year 2023 is Viva MagentaPepsi’s rebrand favored bold colors to its old muted tones, and nearly all major design trends this year involve vibrant tones.

Trend: We’ll re-prioritize desktop over mobile experiences

Did this come true? Not really

As of May 2023, 67% of total web visits were made on mobile devices, with 32% coming from desktops. Mobile gaming also continues to dominate over console, PC, and desktop gaming, with revenues making up almost half of the $187.7B global market. But it’s not to say brands are altogether forgoing the format — Spotify just revamped its desktop app, Reddit made much-needed changes to its logged-out web experience, and Chrome just upleveled its desktop experience.

A picture of the actress Jennifer Coolidge an the actress Jane Lynch, from the movie "Best in Show"

Trend: Jennifer Coolidge

Did it come true? Yeahhhh *Jennifer Coolidge voice*

Jennifer Coolidge is everything and everywhere in 2023. She was one of Time’s Most Influential People in 2023, and snagged nine awards including a SAG Award, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy. She’s starring alongside L̶o̶g̶a̶n̶ ̶R̶o̶y̶ Brian Cox in an upcoming crime comedy, and for the first time, her neighbors are inviting her over. Long may she reign, in 2023 and beyond.

I only covered 18 of our 82 predictions for 2023 — the full report is stacked with even more hunches you should take a look at before the year is out. I leave you with my first prophecy for 2024: Codeword’s going to keep its place as your favorite agency 😉.

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